By and large, the vast majority of people who visit my blog are women who are either struggling to save their marriage, are facing divorce, or are afraid there husbands are going to leave. I’m commonly asked something like “I’m scared my husband is going to leave me. What are some signs to confirm he’s planning to leave and how can I make him stay or change his mind?” The answer to these questions depend upon the couple, at least somewhat. Every person has a different breaking point. But, there are some universal signs that your marriage is in real trouble or that your husband has checked out.
I would advise you to trust your intuition and take action if you suspect something is going awry in your marriage. Every marriage can benefit from improvement and it’s much better to be proactive and prevent real trouble than to just wait for something negative and lasting to happen. From my experience, just taking a “wait and see approach” is the wrong call. Because once things have deteriorated to the point where your husband is walking out the door, your job will be that much harder, but not impossible.
There’s A Distance, Both Literally and Figuratively: Probably the first sign that your husband might be planning to leave is that he distances himself and detaches from you. You may find that your conversations are short and curt. He’ll give yes and no answers rather than engaging in real, meaningful conversation. Or, you may find that you’re only talking about kids, jobs, or the logistics of daily life and running a household. And, there’s generally a literal distance as well. There are less spontaneous, affectionate gestures like hand holding, brushing against your arm, or rubbing your back. These things are often chalked up as both of you being stressed and busy, but they can be real warning signs that your husband has checked out.
Intimacy Is Lacking And Not Just In The Bedroom: Another common warning sign is that there’s not much going on in the bedroom. You’re both too tired, too busy, or the time never seems right. The intimate knowing glances and gestures, the feeling that you both “get” each other and are in sync are no longer there or are waning. Whereas you used to feel that you could tell your husband anything and he would listen intently, today, it’s more likely that you will hear silence or awkward pauses.
Occasionally, this can go the other way. Sometimes, you’ll notice an increase in sex, almost desperately, as the husband is trying to make a last ditch effort to see if the “spark” is still there or can be rekindled. Or, he’ll chatter on and on about nothing in an attempt to fill the deafening silence.
You Just Feel That Something Is “Off” With Him: Very commonly, women will write me and say that they just know something is brewing with their husbands. Although he denies it and assures the wife that he is just stressed and that nothing is really wrong, the little voice in the back of your head is screaming at you that, in fact, something is very wrong here. Often, you can’t put your finger on it, but you know it with absolutely certainty.
What To Do If You See Any Of These Signs Or Think That He Is Going To Leave You: If you see any of these signs and you have a weird feeling that your husband is planning to leave, it’s important to lay it on the table. The worst thing that you can do is to ignore it and to hope that it just miraculously goes away or passes.
Find a time when you can both be present without being rushed. Tell your husband that you notice a troubling distance and are afraid that he’s checked out of the marriage and is thinking of leaving it. Often, men will flat out deny this, even if it is true. Don’t argue or disagree. Listen calmly and let him say whatever he will. Then, when he is finished, repeat that you still feel that you weren’t as close as you once were and it hurts you because this marriage and this man are the most important things in your life.
Stress that you both deserve to be happy and tell him that making this happen is your number one priority. Ask him, if you could wave a magic wand and immediately get what would make him happy, what would that be? (I know this sounds silly, but men have trouble articulating what they really want. If you just say “what would it take to make you happy again,” they will often balk or brush you off because they don’t believe that you are really going to be able to deliver.)
If he can’t or won’t give you an answer, know this. At their core, men are not so different from us. In the end, they want to be valued, desired, understood, and appreciated. They want to be on top of your to do list and among the first in your heart. Many times, when they have checked out or are planning to leave, it’s because they really and truly believe that it’s too late or no longer possible for them to get these needs met again. Your job is to show and not tell them that not only is it possible, that it is going to happen so that there is no longer any reason for them to want or need to leave.